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Yellowstone National Park

My F and I live in FL and have never been to Montana or Wyoming. We absolutely love the idea of doing a road trip from Florida all the way to Montana with one or two stops in between.

We are not familiar with Montana or Wyoming at all, so we would love some feedback on decently priced hotels/cabins, parks to visit/hike at and most of all the best areas to stay.

Help, anyone? :)   

Re: Yellowstone National Park

  • CMGragainCMGragain member
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 25 Answers
    edited January 2016
    What time of year are you planning to visit?  This is a very important question.  The park is only fully open during the high summer months.  Due to altitude, it is snow packed for most of the rest of the year.
    There is no cheap lodging anywhere near the park.  Remember, the park is larger than some eastern states!
    I think it is worth it to stay inside the park at the park lodges.  They are older, and high priced, but you get a completely different experience staying inside the park.  Be aware that cheaper rooms will have the bathroom down the hall, just like your old dormitory days!  There are no luxury rooms.
    My favorite was Mammoth Springs. No fancy restaurant.  At sunset, herd of elk and bison wander around the grounds.  Be careful!  They are not tame!  It is a photographer's delight.  There are educational programs at night.
    Old Faithful Inn is next to the geysers, and during the day it is packed with tourists.  It is also very expensive, but I think it is worth it to stay at this historic architectural masterpiece.  Be prepared to carry you luggage a long way from your parking spot!   There is a pianist who entertains at night.
    One town close to Yellowstone N.P. is Cody, WY.  This has a fabulous museum that focuses on Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show.  It also has the largest gun collection in the world.  A must if you or your FI is into firearms.  You will drive more than an hour into the park from this town before you get to any famous sights.
    There is also the town of West Yellowstone, MT, (Very developed with lots of family oriented motels) and Gardiner, MT, near Mammoth Springs.  Many people enjoy Jackson, WY, also known as "Jackson Hole", but it is much farther south on the other side of the Grand Tetons National Park, which you might also want to see.

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  • What time of year are you planning on visiting the park?  This is a very important question.  Most lodges and tourist activities are not available except in the summer months due to high altitude and snow packed roads.
    There is no cheap lodging anywhere near the park.  You have to pay.  Beware the budget "rustic cabins", unless you are a very good sport.  No heating, no insulation, no plumbing.  There is a community shower house with toilets.
    I think it is worth the splurge to stay inside the park.  In the evening when the day trippers are gone, it is magical.  My favorite lodge was Mammoth Springs.  In the evening, herds of elk and bison wander in and lurk around the hotel.  Nothing fancy here.  Many of the rooms are basic with shower and toilet down the hall. 
    Historic Old Faithful Inn is full of tourists and very expensive.  I think it is worth it to spend a night here.  The architecture alone is amazing.  They have an expensive fine dining restaurant, as well as overpriced sandwiches to carry out, nearby.  Be prepared to carry your luggage a long way from your parking space!
    I was disappointed in Yellowstone Lake Hotel.  It is very expensive, but gives you a decent hotel experience.
    There are several towns near the boundary of the park.  Their facilities aren't cheap, either, but some are more modern.  I liked Cody, WY, which has a super museum dedicated to Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show.  It has the largest gun collection in the world, which is a must see if you or your FI is into guns.  The downside is that this town is far from the popular areas of the park.
    West Yellowstone, MT, is modern, overdeveloped, and full of family oriented motels.  Gardiner, MT, near the famous stone north entrance, is more quaint.  It is near the Mammoth Springs area.
    Many people like to stay in Jackson, WY, also known as Jackson Hole for ski people.  It is very expensive and touristy.  Most stores cater to fat wallets.  There is a long drive through Grand Tetons National Park before you get to Yellowstone, but the views are beautiful.
    Here are some useful websites:

    http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/lodging/

    http://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm

    Have a great trip.  Bring a warm coat for evening, rain gear, water and hiking shoes. 

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  • Thanks so much for all the information. We plan to go at the end of July. I will be sure to look into everything you mentioned.
  • labrolabro Hotlanta member
    5000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    On your way to Yellowstone, your route may take you through SD so you might as well make a point of stopping to see some of the larger attractions in the Black Hills - Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park/Needles Highway/etc. It IS possible to see all those in 1 day so you wouldn't even lose a ton of time. Continuing west, definitely stop and see Devil's Tower in Wyoming. I've never gotten to see it, we were always in the area when it was closed for the season, but since you're already basically in the area, you might as well stop!



    Knottie1251661
  • Apologies.  The Knot was acting up, and my first post disappeared.  Now I see that both posts are up.  I didn't mean to double post.
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  • WinstonsGirlWinstonsGirl The Cold North member
    Tenth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Yes, ditto also hitting up South Dakota.  There is a ton of stuff to see there.  Aside from everything already mentioned, look for Badlands Park (can't remember if it's State or National) and drive through there on to Wall SD.  Stop at Wall Drug (you can't miss it) for an afternoon of kitschy fun.  

    We camped about 5 min outside of Yellowstone when we went.  July/Aug.  Bring harm clothes for the evening cos it does get quite cool because of the altitude.    And if you're going into Montana, stop in Great Falls to see the Mermaids.  They're at the Sip and Dip bar attached to the O'Haire Motor Inn.  They'll give you a rubber ducky if you stay there.  A little dodgy feeling, but clean.  
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  • labrolabro Hotlanta member
    5000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I would say skip Wall Drug because it's basically the worst ever unless you have a huge need for 5 cents coffee (honor pay system) and a desire to see one of the biggest tourist traps in America. You do pass right by it on I-90...going west basically you turn right to visit Wall and Wall Drug or turn left and drive about 10ish miles to enter the Badlands National Park.



  • labro said:
    I would say skip Wall Drug because it's basically the worst ever unless you have a huge need for 5 cents coffee (honor pay system) and a desire to see one of the biggest tourist traps in America. You do pass right by it on I-90...going west basically you turn right to visit Wall and Wall Drug or turn left and drive about 10ish miles to enter the Badlands National Park.
    Yeah, I was pretty disappointed by Wall Drug, but it made for an interesting story. My college BF and I went on a road trip across the US, and we saw billboards for Wall Drug for at least 300 miles leading up to it. So by the time we got there, we HAD to stop and see what the hell it was.

    We were pretty amused by it all, but it is just a giant tourist trap. I bought a mug with a painting of the badlands on it, that came with a coaster/ash tray combo (a little platform with a spot for the mug, and an ash tray with little grooves for the cigarette on the front. It said "Sip'n'smoke" on the ash tray portion). We use the ash tray/coaster thingy as a ladel holder on our stove now, and I still think it's funny.

    I bought a few "Where the heck is Wall Drug" and "Have you dug Wall Drug" bumper stickers, and one of them is still on my mom's old car (which now belongs to a friend).
    BabyFruit Ticker
  • Wall Drug is the western equivalent of "South of the Border" in South Carolina on I-95.
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    ahoywedding
  • WinstonsGirlWinstonsGirl The Cold North member
    Tenth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I did say it was Kitschy.  :D  We got a little Jackolope Christmas tree ornament ourselves.  
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